How to Test Cell Phone Signal Strength on Your Phone
- 30 Apr, 2020
If I were to ask you about your cell phone’s signal strength the first thing you would probably do is look at the bars on your phone and respond with one of the following:
“I have full bars of signal. Good coverage.”
“I hardly have one bar of signal.”
“I’ve only got half bars right now.”
This might be the easiest way to get an understanding of your current signal strength, but this does not provide the full picture.
On your cell phone, whether it be an iPhone or an Android phone, these bars are mostly there to serve as a visual indicator of cell signal strength.
The number of bars you see on your phone can vary vastly and depends on the manufacturer and model - And isn’t an accurate representation of your true signal strength.
Most cell phone manufacturers assign different values to each bar you see. This means two signal bars showing on your specific model of iPhone may actually mean that your phone is receiving more signals than your friend’s Android phone that’s currently displaying three bars of signal.
Just like a car’s petrol gauge, signal bars can only provide a general indication of signal strength— and is not an exact measure.
Revealing your cell phone’s true signal strength is better than relying on bars alone. However, to make sense of the signal strength reading, let’s get an understanding of how signal strength is measured and how to test cell signal on your mobile phone.
Most Accurate Signal Measurement : Bars vs. dBm (Decibel Milliwatts)
Decibels provide a more accurate and better measure of signal strength.
Signal strength for cellphones is calculated using dBm (or decibel milliwatts) as its standard unit of measure. On a signal strength meter, dBm is typically expressed as a negative number—such as -95.
The closer to 0 the dBm reading is, the stronger the cell phone signal.
- Close to no signal strength or "Dead Zone" = -120 dBm
- Poor signal strength = -115 dBm to -100 dBm
- Good signal strength = -75 dBm to -84 dBm
- Excellent signal strength = - 65 dBm to -50 dBm
The usual range of measurement for cell phone signal strength is between -110 dBm and -60 dBm. Being a logarithmic unit of measure, each 3-dB increase is actually doubling the power. So, a cell signal that measures -76 dBm is twice as powerful as a cell signal that comes in at -79 dBm.
How Signal Strength Influences Your Mobile Phone?
Your cell phone relies on signal strength to perform various different applications. To make a call, -100 dBm is not ideal but will work. It becomes more difficult to maintain a wireless data transfer at the -100 dBm range—particularly at 4G or LTE speeds.
To enjoy top performance on your smartphone or cellular device, you’ll require a signal between -50 dBm and -80 dBm.
When your cell signal is weaker than -100 dBm, it’s likely that you won’t have good service without relying on a cell signal booster. If you’re not familiar with cell phone signal boosters and how they work, this guide to cell signal boosters offers a helpful explanation on how they improve cellular connectivity.
How To Check Signal Strength On An Apple Device
For iPhones, there are some useful apps that you can download to test your cellular signal strength and network speeds.
- OpenSignal is a free app that allows you to run a test of your iPhone’s true speed (i.e. what you are likely to experience when normally using your phone) and view maps of real coverage in your area—while showing you which network is best in your area. It also features compass points to show you which direction your cell signal is coming from.
- Speedtest by Ookla is another free app, trusted by professionals for testing connection speeds. Quick, easy, one-tap connection speed tests can take place practically anywhere because of the app developer’s extensive global network. Users can access detailed reporting on past tests and simulate downloading a file to show how signal strength really affects iPhone performance. You can measure cell signal and internet signal strength with this test.
iPhone Field Test Mode
iPhone users can also view a signal strength reading by accessing their iPhone Field Test Mode. Below are instructions to enact the field test mode an iPhone models. *Instructions may not work for iPhone’s using iOS 11 and higher.
- Turn off Wifi
- Key in *3001#12345#*
- Press call
- Tap: Serving Cell Measurements
- Scroll down to: Measured rsrp0
- Add +20 dBm to the resulting number (example -102 shown would be -82 dBm)
Helpful tip: When taking signal readings, move to the location where you want to take the reading, wait for 30 to 60 seconds for the signal readings to catch up, and then record the signal strength and network type (2G, 3G, 4G, LTE, etc.).
How To Check Signal Strength For Android Devices
For Android users, there is a great go-to app to do a signal strength test and network speed test.
- Network Cell Info Lite, available for free on the Google Play store, provides nearly real-time monitoring of cellular and WiFi signals. Raw network cellular information is provided, such as network speeds as shown in decibels. Route coloring is displayed in a map, in accordance to signal strength and relative location of towers form the Mozilla MLS database.
Android Field Test Mode
Most Android phone models allow the user to view signal strength readings by navigating the device’s menu options. Accessing Field test mode on Android phones is also simple.
- Go to “Settings” > “About Phone”
- Your numerical signal strength will be available under either Network or Status, depending on the model of the phone you own.
- Being able to find the right menu screen varies across phone manufacturers, models and versions of Android OS.
- A typical navigation sequence is Settings – About Phone – Status or Network – Signal Strength or Network Type and Strength.
Alternate navigation sequence for some Android phones is Settings > More Options or More Settings > About Phone > Mobile Networks > Signal Strength. Some experimenting with the menus on your Android phone should get you a dBm reading that’s reliable.
Helpful tip: Android phones will read only one network at a time. If you have 4G network access, that’s the default dBm reading your phone will display. If there’s no 4G service at the moment, the reading will default to 3G.
After following the instructions above, if you’re unable to determine your device’s signal strength reading, check the operation manual that came with your device.
How To Increase Cell Phone Signal Strength
A signal booster overcomes all challenges that lead to poor signal strength and amplify your signal resulting in strong, dependable cell coverage that you need inside your home or vehicle.
By testing cell signal strength, it’s easy to see how subtle differences in signal strength can affect the performance of your smartphone, tablets, or other cellular-connected devices. It is also a great way to troubleshoot why you may be experiencing dropped calls, unsent texts, slow data speeds, or issues with streaming video content.
Ready to improve your cell signal now? Visit Bolton Technical today and shop signal boosters ideal for your situation- in your home, office or vehicle. Contact our technical team on 011 749 3085 or email us.